Why Trying New Recipes Is Important

As you guys know, I love working in the kitchen. A group of my friends and I have been planning a “baking day” where some of the men can learn some new skills and us girls can drink some wine and teach them. We can’t do it right away but I’m hoping in a few months we’ll be able to get together to do it.

I think sharing skills and taking the time to help others learn is incredibly important. Though in this day and age we don’t often have canning days, I think getting together to help each other and to enjoy food and drink is essential. I would encourage everyone to try this whether you are the host, the teacher or the student. Please let me know if you have or will be doing this in the comments!

I’ve been thinking of how to teach when I realized that teaching how to make a recipe is not the issue. Teaching how to change a recipe to better suit you or the environment you are cooking in is. I thought about how most of the recipes I have written in my book aren’t actually how I make the food. As I work with a recipe I adjust it to better suit my taste, my kitchen ware and how I want the final product to come out.

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Minor changes are cook times and temperatures, but changing the process for Babka dough to make it fluffier or how to make a chunky chocolate spread into a smooth and creamy one can change the entire product.

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So I started asking myself how I learned to manipulate recipes to suit me better and I realized it came from trying new recipes so often. With each new meal, new cultural dish, new process comes more knowledge to draw upon. To be the best home cook requires stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new dishes. Experience also helps. You learn from your mistakes and most recipes don’t include a “absolutely don’t do this” section.

One of the simplest lessons I learned was not to fold warm chocolate into whipped cream as it ruins the texture. You have to let the chocolate cool before folding it in! My first time trying it the whipped cream became a soupy mixture that just wasn’t visually appealing. Lesson learned. Also learned that day that id you sprinkle a mixture of powdered sugar and cocoa powder over a complete chocolate failure, it hides it pretty well even though it can’t fix the texture problem.

The first time I made Babka, a chocolate bread dessert, I just couldn’t figure out why the bread was so dense and chewy. I saw the yeast bloom, I kneaded it for 15 minutes by hand, I did a twelve hour cool rest and I rolled it out evenly. The second time I made it I increased the temperature in the oven from 375 to 415 and the difference was incredible. I didn’t change anything else, just the temperature, but the bread was risen with a better crust and it both tasted and felt better.

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I think being able to trouble shoot your own cooking is important. Being able to look at what you don’t like in your finished product and be able to fix it makes you a better cook. Google can often help if you can figure out the specific issue, but it can be tedious to try and find the right answer online, whereas experience and dedication to bettering your skills can lead you down new roads.

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I don’t claim to be the best home cook. I still have a lot to learn and I look forward to a lifetime of experimenting and expanding my wheelhouse. This year I have focused more strongly on desserts. I learned how to Deep Fry Oreos, make a Cadbury Egg Cheesecake and how to make a selection of chocolate breads and dessert buns. Last year I focused on broths, steaks and perfecting roasted vegetables. I don’t know what will catch my eye this upcoming year, but I look forward to seeing what will catch my fancy.

Going back to the baking day we have planned I figured out what I’m going to do. I ‘m going to teach a N0-Knead bread recipe that can be customized to each persons preference that relies on the maker being attentive to humidity and dough moisture. I think this bread is a good starting point as it doesn’t require hand kneading (none of us own stand mixers) but does require adjustment which teaches flexibility in baking. I also want to teach how to make Babka, a more finicky dough that will render your wrists into angry stumps by the time you’re done kneading. This one will be to teach technique as well as how to roll out doughs nicely and how to seal the dough as not to let out the filling. The last items will be standard cup cakes with buttercream and whipped cream frosting. We’ll go over how to make the cup cakes, mix and colour the icing, how to load the icing bag and how to use different tips to create different effects. I would also like to show how to bake, stack and decorate a cake that we can all share. In the end, everyone will get two loaves of bread and a dozen cupcakes to take home (and possibly left over cake). For some of my friends this will be more instructive than for others, but it gives those who know more about baking the opportunity to help the others as we all work together to create a small feast.

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I hope it will be a good day for everyone and while I am a little more experienced than most of my friends, I think they’ll have their own cultural ways of preparing basic foods. As our group is culturally diverse it’s likely most of us grew up with different methods of doing things so we’ll all get to learn new techniques. Personally I have a French background which shows in my food.

I’ll write about it once we get to have our baking day and I hope it will go well. I would love if you would tell me about your own stories in the kitchen.

Reeses Peanut Butter Cake

This past week was Ryans birthday, and while we couldn’t have a party, there was no way he wasn’t going to have a cake. We talked about what he wanted and he was adamant he wanted peanut butter in his cake so I set out to make him the best cake I could.

This cake serves 12 – 15 people. It should be refrigerated after assembly until 3 hours before serving for ideal texture.

Eva Blakeman – Peanut Butter Cake

Ingredients

Cake

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar

Icing

  • 1 1/4 cups natural peanut butter
  • 2 cups salted butter (room temperature)
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 8 cups icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 12 – 15 Reeses cups
Eva Blakeman – Peanut Buter Cake

If you make this cake, please tag me on instagram @evablakeman so that I can see how amazing your cake looks!

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Baking Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F and grease either one 9 inch spring pan or three 8 inch round cake pans. Lay down parchment on the bottom of the pan.
  2. Mix all dry cake ingredients together well. In a separate bowl mix eggs, milk, vanilla and vegetable oil together until combined.
  3. Pour the wet ingredient bowl into the dry ingredient bowl until well combined then slowly add the hot water while mixing batter at a slow pace.
  4. If you are using three cake pans, divide the batter equally between the three of them. If you are using a spring pan, pour one and a half inches of batter into the pan. (For spring pan this will be repeated two more times to bake all three layers of the cake.)
  5. Bake for 22-25 minutes. (In order to check if your cake is done baking, stick a toothpick in the centre and all four corners, if it comes out clean the cake is done baking.)
  6. Let cakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing from the pan and moving to a cooling rack. (For easiest icing, refrigerate your cake layers once they have reached room temperature.)
  7. Onto icing. Mix all wet ingredients until smooth. Add one cup of icing sugar at a time, fully mixing it in before adding the next cup.
  8. Chop your Reeses into small pieces (save 5 Reeses for the top of the cake).
  9. Pack your icing into icing bags, one with a open tip, the other with a star tip. (This icing is easiest to work with when kept warm, I let my bags sit beside the warm oven).
  10. To stack and layer the cake, ensue your cakes are level (if they are not, use a serrated knife to level them off).
  11. Put down your first cake and use your open tipped bag to evenly distribute 3/4 inch to an inch of icing over the entire top of the cake.
  12. Place half of the chopped Reeses on the icing layer, spread out.
  13. Repeat step 11.
  14. Put down your final layer of cake, use the open tipped bag to distribute icing over the top and side of the top layer of cake. (Even out with a spatula).
  15. Use your star tipped bag around the bottom icing layer to add texture and place flowers evenly around the layer.
  16. Add 8 flowers on the top layer of the cake evenly around the circumference. Add a large flower in the centre. Place half Reeses cups in between each flower on the top.
  17. Refrigerate until 3 hours previous to serving.
Eva Blakeman – Reeses Peanut Butter Cake

I had a lot of fun making this cake and I look forward to making more like it in the future. It’s by no means a perfect cake (I plastic wrapped it in the fridge so some of the flowers got smushed) but it was absolutely delicious and we got to drop off cake for other people (zero interaction do drop offs) to share it with people we love for Ryans birthday. It is a very dense and rich cake due to the peanut butter icing, so when cutting, cut smaller than you think you need. I think this cake would be a good one to use if you wanted to make a boozy cake. The rich chocolate and peanut butter would pair really well with coffee liqueurs soaked into the. layers.


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it was fortunate that I went over board with the cake, as Ryans birthday gift still isn’t here (a week after his birthday) even though I ordered it months ago. As much as I like purchasing from individuals, the shipping times are sometimes ridiculously long. Thankfully Ryan didn’t seem to notice his gift was missing when I put this plate of delight in-front of him. I did tell him that his gif is late after cake time, and he didn’t seem too disappointed so all is well.

Eva Blakeman – Peanut Butter Cake

Bourbon Cake

This week my friend is coming over to visit and it was just his birthday a few days ago. We couldn’t be there with him on this birthday so I thought I’d make him the perfect cake. He likes his brown liquors and I really enjoy baking so I thought, “why not mix good bourbon into the mix with a good cake?” It yielded a beautiful, rich and moist cake without having to use buttermilk.

I did not tier my cake since there will only be three of us eating and we don’t need that much, but if you were going to tier this cake with this recipe I would double the icing amount as by the time I was doing my flowers my piping bag was nearly empty. I made this in a 10 inch spring pan, but you could easily make two 8 x 8 inch layers with this as well.

Bourbon Cake – evablakeman

Ingredients (Cake)

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups milk (I used 3%)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 2 large eggs

Ingredients (Glaze)

  • 2 tbsp bourbon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/8 cup sugar

Ingredients (Icing)

  • 1 cup butter (room temperature)
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp bourbon

I used Wild Turkey bourbon in this recipe. Strongly flavoured bourbon goes well paired with the sweetness of the cake.

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Mix all wet ingredients together.
  3. Add baking powder and sugar, ensure there are no lumps and the batter is smooth before continuing.
  4. Add in flour gradually, mix until smooth.
  5. Pour batter into a liberally buttered or greased baking pan.
  6. For thin pans, bake 15 – 20 minutes, for thick pans bake 45-55 minutes. Doing this with a 10 inch spring pan baking time was 47 minutes.
  7. Use a toothpick to check if your cake is done, the toothpick will come out clean if it is done.
  8. Mix all ingredients of your glaze together in a small bowl.
  9. Wash the top of the cake with bourbon glaze.
  10. Cool in the pan at least 10 minutes before scraping sides with a blade.
  11. Once cake is removed from the pan, brush down the sides with glaze and pour any leftovers on top of the cake, spreading around evenly.
  12. Let cake cool completely before icing.
  13. Cream butter in the bowl, add in the bourbon and vanilla while creaming.
  14. Add in sugar in small amounts. Work the buttercream until smooth. DO NOT ADD MILK.
  15. Ice how ever you would like. I chose to use a flat sweep over the top and run a simple trail up and down the sides, covering any mistakes or patches with quick flowers. The I threw some gold glitter on top and called it a day.

If you liked or tried the recipe I would love to hear about it. Please feel free to leave a comment below or tag me on any social media ( @evablakeman) so I can see your beautiful cake! And if you want more good stuff coming straight to you, sign up to receive updates on what going on!

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Bourbon Cake – evablakeman